National Institute for Multicultural Competence

 

 

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Letter to Carol Bobby, CACREP Executive Director

 

           

To Carol Bobby, CACREP Executive Director

From: Michael D’Andrea, Director of the National Institute for Multicultural Competence

Re: Increasing CACREP’s commitment to Multicultural Counseling Competence

Date: May 8, 2005

 

Aloha, Carol.  I am writing as the Director of the National Institute for Multicultural Competence (NIMC) to open discussion and continue collaboration about changes in CACREP’s standards.  I understand CACREP is presently going through a review and re-writing of its standards so this would be an auspicious time to present the concerns many NIMC members have expressed about CACREP’s lack of commitment to fully infuse multicultural counseling considerations into its standards.

 

You may recall that the NIMC was founded in 1992.  At that time it was referred to as the National Multicultural Ad Hoc Committee.  You can go to our website at http://www.geocities.com/nimc_newsletter/nimcnewsletter.htm to access additional and updated information about the NIMC.

 

I recall having conversations with several leaders in CACREP about the importance of increasing this accrediting body’s commitment for multicultural counseling competence during the 1990s as one of the founding members of NIMC.  In fact, I believe you and other representatives of CACREP and NBCC attended a leadership meeting convened at the ACA Headquarters in the 1995 by the NIMC to discuss these issues and concerns.

 

Also as you probably know, leaders in the NIMC have worked tirelessly to promote multicultural competence in the counseling profession in general and within ACA in particular for more than a decade.  These efforts have resulted in securing formal endorsement of the multicultural counseling competencies by six ACA associations between 1996 and 1999; leaders in our group worked very hard to advocate for ACA’s formal endorsement of the competencies as a total organizational body and this occurred in 2003; we have also implemented three national campaigns and tours to promote multicultural competence in the profession since 1996. 

 

In implementing these organizational initiatives, we have routinely been approached by graduate students and counselor educators who express concern about the lack of commitment by CACREP for multicultural counseling competence.  This concern was clearly articulated by numerous persons who attended the recent ACA Convention in Atlanta.

 

In addition to these expressed concerns and the fact that multiculturalism has taken center stage in the counseling profession, you are probably aware that the State of New Jersey has recently passed legislation that includes “cultural competence” as one of the criteria used to define the ethical and legal responsibilities of mental health professionals in that state.  Given the rapidly changing demographics of our nation, the trend to formally legislate “cultural competence” as a legal mandate in our mental health-care and educational systems it is obvious that more states will predictably follow the New Jersey legislative action in the future

 

Personally speaking, I have seen some progress in CACREP’s commitment to social and cultural issues as they related to the training of counselors and educators over that past 15 years.  However, I would also admit that I believe the changes CACREP has made in its specific commitment to promote multicultural counseling competence in our profession has and continues to largely be superficial and not effective in addressing the types of professional accreditation standards that will help to guarantee that students in our training programs will acquire the types of cultural competencies they need to work effectively, respectfully, and ethically in a culturally-diverse 21st Century society.

 

Having said this I want to readily acknowledge that I may not know of the specific changes CACREP has implemented in moving this accrediting body toward a greater level of multicultural competence itself.  Rather than prejudge CACREP in this area and in an effort to help other NIMC members gain a more accurate idea of the progress CACREP has made in this area, I invite you and other CACREP representations to accept our invitation to open formal consultation about the ways in which leaders in our organization can assist CACREP in making changes in future accreditation standards that are consistent with the ethics of multicultural counseling competence.

 

Given the rising level of frustration and perhaps misunderstanding many graduate students and faculty members have about CACREP’s lack of commitment for multicultural counseling competence, I would like to offer our professional advocacy services by setting a time to formally consult with members of CACREP in August 2005. The persons who would participate in this consultation process are all highly recognized and respected multicultural counseling advocates, researchers, authors, trainers, and practitioners.  Our commitment in working positively with CACREP to find constructive solutions to help this accreditation body move beyond what is perceived as ethnocentric organizational functioning is reflected in the fact that the consultation team members would be willing to pay their own expenses in traveling to the east coast to meet with CACREP representatives.

  

To begin what I hope will be a productive and positive collaboration and partnership with CACREP – one that will lead to specific changes in the current re-writing of the accreditation standards that reflect a much greater commitment for multicultural counseling competence - I have listed several questions below that might serve as a beginning point in this consultation process.  I will call you early this week to talk with you about these questions and how CACREP is dealing with the issues reflected in each.  However, if you could briefly respond to these questions and return your brief responses to me via e-mail that would be helpful as well.

 

Having your responses to the following issues/concerns/questions would be helpful in beginning our efforts to work together to promote the kinds of accreditation standards that are consistent with the needs that current students in counseling and related educational programs encounter in becoming culturally-competent professionals in the future.

  1. To help facilitate a greater understanding of the precise steps CACREP has taken to infuse multicultural counseling considerations into its standards over the past 15 years, it would be helpful to have you and one or more of your colleagues write a 1,500-2,000 word article that would be published in the August issue of Counseling Today in a monthly column that Judy Daniels, Patricia Arredondo, and I serve as co-editors.  It would be wonderful if information about the specific types of new multicultural counseling issues that are being considered in the re-writing of the new standards were discussed in this article.  I would be glad to provide my personal consultative assistance in helping your write this article.  The deadline is July 10th.  I believe providing the readership of Counseling Today with information related to the types of progress CACREP has made in this area would help clarify misunderstandings some people may have about CACREP’s commitment in this area and enable them to know what CACREP is planning to do in this area in the future.  Would you and your colleagues be willing to do this?

 

  1. Several persons have raised concerns to the NIMC by noting that, when CACREP accreditation review teams visited their training programs, feedback was commonly given about the types of counseling topics/issues that are not included in faculty members’ syllabi.  This feedback commonly focused on the lack of attention some training programs are thought to direct to various professional issues based on a review of faculty members’ course syllabi.  Some of the common areas that CACREP teams have noted to be missing in faculty members’ syllabi include issues related to family counseling, ethical, testing and measurement issues to name a few. 

 

While CACREP representatives have reportedly placed some programs under “conditional accreditation” with the understanding that “training deficiencies” will be addressed in the future; issues and deficiencies related to multicultural counseling competence are not treated in a similar manner.  Given that ACA has formally endorsed the multicultural competencies, what specific criteria does CACREP use in identifying multicultural counseling competency training deficiencies and how are they addressed when identified?

 

  1. One of the more serious concerns that has been raised about the kind of ethnocentrism that it thought to continue to be manifested in the CACREP standards relates to the emphasis that is currently placed on the use of “individual supervision” in practicum and internship courses.  While the continued emphasis that is placed on individual supervision is consistent with Euro-centric norms and values of professional development, it conflicts with the norms and values that an increasing number of non-White graduate students bring to our training programs.  As one NIMC member pointed out, “the continuing emphasis on individual supervision is culturally-inappropriate and impositional because it imposes the values of the dominant cultural-racial group in our profession and forces culturally-different students to adjust to the continued power dynamics that mainly White supervisors and faculty members maintain in individual supervision settings.”

 

You are probably aware of the research literature that identifies the use of group learning, counseling, and supervision strategies as more respectful, ethical, and effective strategies to promote the development of culturally-different students and clients.  Several years ago Bryan Kim, Judy Daniels and I published a case study in the ACES journal that describes how individual supervision strategies can foster particularly adverse professional and personal outcomes when used with some students of Asian descent. 

 

There are other research and theoretical publications that describe negative dynamics that commonly emerge in individual supervision settings that include students from Native American, African, and Latino descent as well.

 

With all of this in mind, is CACREP aware of the cultural biases and possible negative outcomes that may ensure from requiring individual supervision as a primary condition for accreditation in this area? 

 

Do you think CACREP would be willing to reconsider the over emphasis of individual supervision in the current re-writing of its standards? 

 

Would you as a leader in CACREP be willing to support a change in the accrediting criteria in this area?

 

  1. Lastly, some persons have indicated that there is on-going discussion about the possibility of introducing new accreditation standards that will require faculty members who are teaching clinical courses to graduate from CACREP-approved programs and/or secure the appropriate counseling licensure certification (e.g., NBCC).  Indeed, this is a very complicated and serious consideration from a multicultural and social justice perspective.  Although this issue is in immediate need of attention and further discussion, I will highlight only a couple of concerns that relate to what might appear to be a simple way of introducing new criteria that is aimed at elevating the standards of the counseling profession in general and professional training program in particular.  It would be important to discuss other serious concerns related to this issue in future consultation meetings with CACREP.

 

Generally speaking many multicultural and social justice counseling advocates continue to raise questions about the appropriateness, validity, and reliability of the test items that are used in national certification tests from a multicultural perspective.  Questions also continue to be raised about the various forms of cultural encapsulation that CACREP is perceived to be operating from in the minds of some students and counselor educators in the field.  These questions lead many people to suggest that it is not ethical to require faculty members who are recognized and respected for their expertise in providing more culturally-effective clinical instruction and supervision even though they have not graduated from a CACREP-approved program or obtained a professional counseling licensure or certification.  These critics further suggest that culturally-diverse faculty members who are arguably more culturally-competent and currently teaching clinical courses may be excluded from continue to provide such effective work if [1] CACREP institutes such a standard and [2] accredited training programs as well as other programs who want to be accredited with CACREP in the future are willing to conform to accreditation standards that maintain culturally-insensitive and exclusionary practices such as the one outlined above.

 

With this serious concern in mind, what is the current standard regarding the professional expertise of faculty members teaching clinical courses in light of the above listed issues and concerns?

 

Are their plans to change the criteria for faculty members who are currently teaching clinical courses?

 

When would such a change occur?

 

In closing, I want to acknowledge that there are other issues and concerns that NIMC members have expressed about the ways in which they view CACREP perpetuating various forms of cultural biases and encapsulation in the accreditation standards.  Some NIMC members have identified the failure of CACREP to more substantially and explicitly infuse issues related to multicultural counseling competence as a manifestation of unintended forms of institutional racism and cultural oppression in our profession. 

 

Personally speaking, I believe that the persons who work with CACREP are well-meaning, caring, and responsible professionals who are genuinely committed to improving the standards of our profession. However, as a multicultural researcher, I understand how each of us can help to unintentionally and unconsciously perpetuate various forms of institutional racism and cultural oppression through acts of omission and commission.  It is in the belief that CACREP and the NIMC share common values in fostering the competence and professionalization of our training programs and students who are trained in them that I extend this invitation for ongoing collaboration and consultation about the issues outlined above.

 

I wanted to start our consultation process by seeking your responses to these issues first.  We can continue to discuss other issues and concerns regarding CACREP’s commitment to multicultural counseling competence as a central focus of its accreditation in future meetings with you and other representatives from CACREP.

 

One of the ways that I am going to try to ensure that the NIMC membership provides their own feedback about the ideas listed above as well as any other issues and suggestions they may want to make in the new revisions of the CACREP standards is by urging them to go to the CACREP website and complete the survey that is posted there by May 13th.

 

I look forward to your response to all of the suggestions and concerns outline above when time allows.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Michael D’Andrea

Professor and Director of the NIMC

 

 

 

 

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